The Top Seven Most Bizarre Man-Made Disasters
3. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest landfill known to man - at least twice the size of Texas by some estimates. It is an area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California where multiple currents converge and create a vortex which collects garbage from all over the world, resulting in what some have referred to as a "plastic soup" of garbage in the middle of the ocean.
Over the decades the garbage patch has been developing, much of the debris has been broken down into smaller and smaller particles, comprised largely of various kinds of plastics, which is then mistaken for food by the marine life, which in turn contaminates the ecosystem all way up the food chain.
Since the area is so massive in scale (both in terms of width and depth underwater), many scientists believe it is nearly impossible to cleanup the contamination at sea, and that it would likely do even more damage to the surrounding sea life in the process. When people talk about our need to recycle plastics, this is why.
2. The Bhopal Disaster
The Bhopal Disaster, which took place at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India on December 2, 1984, is considered by many to be the worst industrial accident in history. Overnight during routine maintenance at Union Carbide chemical plant (which had an extensive history of previous accidents), water leaked into a tank containing 42 tons of methyl isocyanate, a chemical used in the production of carbaryl, a potent pesticide.
The reaction of the water and the chemicals inside the tank caused the internal temperature to rise, and in turn resulted in the tanks venting massive amounts of poisonous gas surrounding the unsuspecting population of Bhopal. Thousands of residents died almost immediately as a result of inhaling the gas, while many more were killed in the subsequent panic that broke out shortly after the incident.
It is estimated that a total of over 20,000 people eventually died as a result of exposure to the gas and another 100,000 to 200,000 people suffered long term injury. To this date, nobody from Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) has been prosecuted in relation to the disaster, and toxic chemicals left in the plant when it was abandoned continue to leak into the groundwater in the region.
1. The Texas City Chain Reaction
Photo: Texas History
The Texas City Chain Reaction disaster is basically a worst-case-scenario come to life. On April 16, 1947, a fire broke out on the SS Grandcamp, a French vessel docked at the Port of Texas City. The ship contained a cache of small arms ammunition, but more importantly, it also contained a large amount of ammonium nitrate - the same stuff used in the Oklahoma City Bombing. To make matters worse, the High Flyer, another ship docked in the harbor about 600 feet away, also contained an additional 961 tons of ammonium nitrate and 3.6 million pounds of sulfur, all bound for Europe to be used in the production of fertilizer.
Around 8AM the morning of the incident, smoke could be seen coming from the cargo hold of the Grandcamp. By 9AM, witnesses reported seeing the water around the ship boiling, an indication that things might have been getting a little bit dodgy. At 9:12, the ship exploded, causing a shockwave felt by people up to 250 miles away and leveling over 1,000 buildings. It also killed the entire Texas City fire department.
As if that weren't bad enough, the explosion also ignited the adjacent High Flyer, which then exploded 15 hours later, causing even more destruction and setting many more fires, some of which occurred at oil and chemical plants nearby. With no surviving firefighters, the surrounding area was left to burn. The force of the explosion caused the two-ton anchor of the Grandcamp to be found 1.62 miles from the site of the detonation. The disaster killed at least 567 people and injured more than 5,000 more, though estimates vary because the scale of destruction at the site was so vast that many people could have literally been vaporized by the explosion. The disaster led to the first class-action lawsuit in American history, filed by the victims against the United States government.